Joburgers love markets.
I’m not talking about farmers markets or flea markets. In Joburg, the term “market” usually refers to a gathering of eclectic food and craft vendors where people go to eat, drink, shop for specialty products, and to see and be seen. The markets always happen either on weekend days or weekday nights, either weekly or monthly.
These markets are popping up all over the city, and they are very trendy, and for a long time I was judgey about them. I had this idea that all the offerings at all the markets are basically the same, and I couldn’t see the point of going to a market when I can just eat in an actual restaurant or shop in an actual store.
So when I was invited to attend the Stall Night Market at Cedar Square Shopping Centre and write a blog post about it, I hesitated. A night market in the parking lot of a shopping mall, in Fourways? (I’m also judgey about Fourways, exurban land of massive malls and housing complexes.) I wasn’t so sure.
Then I told myself to stop being a diva and open my mind. So I went to Fourways, to the shopping mall parking lot, to the night market. And I had such a good time.
A Night Out at the Market
I arrived at the market at 5:00 p.m., right when it starts. The first place I noticed was a bakery stall, run by a group of friends who were selling cupcakes and donuts to raise money for charity. The cupcakes cost R10, or about $.70. I bought a peanut butter cupcake and my friend Frances (who I just happened to bump into in the parking lot) chose a chocolate brownie cupcake. They were delicious and the bakers were charming.
After the cupcakes, we moved on to craft gin cocktails. Yes, craft gin is totally trendy and hipster in South Africa at the moment. But that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.
The makings of a craft gin cocktail by Eighteen13.
After consuming a cupcake followed by a cocktail, I realized I was having my courses in the wrong order. I said goodbye to Frances, who had another appointment, and decided to wander around for a while to work up an appetite before buying my actual dinner.
I met Winnie Maluleke, who runs a fashion business called Voila Feel Beautiful. Winnie makes amazing clothes and accessories out of recycled T-shirt material.
I met Thabs Mtimkulu, who specializes in colorful, tasty sauces. I was keen on the hot pink beet pesto, but eventually walked away with a jar of bright yellow habanero hot sauce. I will definitely be eating some of that on my veggie burger tonight, as soon as I finish this blog post.
Thabs Mtimkulu of Culinary on Call.
I met the lady at the Prickly Pear Mexican food stand, who makes something called a “burrito burger”.
My final stop was Ole Smoki, the place I’d been scouting out for my dinner all evening. Ole Smoki, a father-and-son operation, sells massive platters of smoked meat (their specialty seems to be pork but I saw chicken, too) smothered in fried onions and mustard sauce.
Some Thoughts on Markets
As I was driving home, I thought about all the interesting market vendors I’d met — how diverse they were and the innovative products they were selling. I thought about how attending markets is one of the best ways to support small entrepreneurs, many of whom can’t afford to open brick-and-morter shops or restaurants.
I also thought about the diversity of clientele I’d seen at the market, and how Fourways is more than just an exurban land of malls and gated complexes. If I lived in Fourways I’m sure I’d be on the lookout for places like this, where I can get out and connect with other people and buy things that might not be available in the strip mall up the road.
Yes, the market is in a mall parking lot and yes, I struggled to keep that ugly Virgin Active sign out of my photos. But parking lot or not, markets are great community gathering spots.
I was wrong to be judgey about markets. From now on I’m going to more markets.
The Stall Night Market takes place on the third Thursday of every month from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Cedar Square Shopping Centre in Fourways.
This post was commissioned by the Cedar Square Shopping Centre. Opinions expressed are mine.